Lewis Hamilton gave the Silverstone crowd exactly what they came for with a scintillating lap to claim pole position for the British Grand Prix. The home favourite had to work hard to see off the challenge of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg but a stunning 1:29.607 saw him four tenths clear in the end with Sebastian Vettel two tenths further back in third.
Mark Webber was the first to draw blood in the shootout for pole with a 1:30.508 on his opening lap, already quicker than anything seen in the two knockout sessions. The bar was swiftly lowered though by the two Mercedes as Rosberg cut the beam with a 1:30.231 but Hamilton was even faster, marginally missing out on sub-1:30 lap. Vettel was strangely off the pace on his first run especially having set the pace in Q2 with the World Champion slotting into fourth.
Webber looked threatening again on his second attempt, going quicker than Hamilton in sector one but the Red Bull lost out down the Hangar Straight and through the final complex, causing him to only split the Mercedes. Rosberg restored the 1-2 for the Silver Arrows with a 1:30.059 to displace Hamilton but Lewis wasn’t going to be denied, succeeding where he failed on his first run by dropping under the 90 second barrier, triggering celebrations in the grandstands.
Vettel recovered from a poor first sector to edge out his teammate for third by nine thousandths of a second while Paul Di Resta added to the British feel-good factor by qualifying fifth. Daniel Ricciardo took a fine sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Adrian Sutil while Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen could only salvage eighth and ninth for Lotus. Fernando Alonso had an even tougher afternoon with tenth the best he could drag out of his recalcitrant Ferrari.
Hamilton and Di Resta were the only British representatives in Q3 after Jenson Button was squeezed out in the second session, just as he feared he would be on Friday. The McLaren driver did come close to pulling off an upset with Raikkonen sneaking in front of him for tenth with his last lap of Q2, going six hundredths faster than Button.
The other big headline in the second session was Felipe Massa’s elimination as his miserable weekend continued. Despite Rob Smedley’s assurance that his lap “wasn’t bad”, it was only good enough for twelfth on the grid, two tenths away from the cut-off point for Q3. Jean-Eric Vergne was the first Toro Rosso driver to fall after a costly error at Chapel rubbished his first lap on new medium tyres while Sergio Perez was a lowly fourteenth in the second McLaren ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado.
Ferrari’s worst fears were already being realised in Q1 where Massa and Alonso were fourteenth and fifteenth respectively, the Brazilian forced into a last gasp effort to claw himself out of the drop zone. His recovery plunged the two Williams drivers into trouble with Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas left to fight over a single place in Q2. Bottas initially grabbed sixteenth with a 1:32.664 but Maldonado followed him over the line with a lap one tenth faster, knocking the Finn out.
Esteban Gutierrez was another casualty in the opening session, confirming Sauber’s lack of pace this weekend, while the battle among the tail-end teams was won by Caterham’s Charles Pic. The Frenchman edged out Jules Bianchi by a quarter of a second to take nineteenth while Giedo van der Garde won his private battle with Max Chilton for the last two places. Despite outqualifying the Briton by three tenths of a second though, Giedo’s grid penalty incurred after his exploits in Canada will drop him behind the second Marussia on the grid.
(Photo Credit: Octane Photographic)